Tag Archives: Alex Stalock

Wild Recaps – at the Chicago Blackhawks – December 17th, 2017

Some response to a loss against a big rival for the Wild?

The dream of a consistently competitive Minnesota Wild team within their reach but they still have some obstacles to get past to get to the point of playing well every game regardless of the opponent. A great team loves winning and battles through everything to win any and every game. The thing that makes a great team stand out, though, is how much they hate losing and how they respond to a loss and/or how they respond to playing bad.

I’ve been laughed at for saying, “I hate losing more than I love winning.” I’m not sure why that’s funny but I’ll explain what I mean. Losing sticks with you because of the mistakes that were made and chances that could’ve made a difference weren’t capitalized on. Maybe a shot went off the post, or an assignment was missed, or you were a split second late to cover the guy who scored or many other things that may have turned the game in your favor. That will stick in your mind and just gnaw at you until you get the chance to go back out on the ice and change it.

That’s why it’s sometimes nice to have a game right away the next day. You now have a chance to respond to the challenge of a competitive game of hockey again. Then make it against probably your biggest rival, the team that has ended your postseason more than any other team and everything is there for you to get up for that game and to do all you can to go get a victory together, right? You’d think so but, the Minnesota Wild didn’t really perform like that was the case last night in Chicago.

They came out with a lot of energy and had 5 shots within the first few minutes and ended up outshooting the Blackhawks in the first period at 13 to 9. The Blackhawks haven’t looked like THE Blackhawks for most of this season so it was hard to know what to expect coming into this game but they were on a 4-game winning streak and they still have Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Corey Crawford. Those guys are getting older but they can still get it done. Patrick Kane seems like he’s having an off-year, at least, by Patrick Kane standards. Maybe it’s because we aren’t seeing the nightly highlights or something or maybe it’s because Chicago has gone through so many ups & downs this season or because he doesn’t have the “Bread Man” on his line anymore since Artemi Panarin was traded in the offseason. Whatever it is, he’s still Patrick Kane and the last thing any team wants to do is give him a scoring chance. He’ll usually bury it and then get better as the game goes along.

Mikael Granlund is a very gifted offensive player. He enjoys passing the puck, maybe even more than shooting. That can sometimes be a problem. There’s nothing wrong with passing, obviously, but a player should also know when it’s time to shoot the puck. Mr. Granlund, because he enjoys passing the puck, sometimes tries to make too much out of a play when the simple play might be the right play. This may have caused the first goal against the Minnesota Wild last night.

Granlund has the puck in the corner. Where should this puck go?

The simple play is back to the point because all 5 Blackhawks players are at or below the dots. Staal isn’t open unless the puck was wrapped around boards. Eriksson-Ek could get the puck behind the net but instead he decides to come out in front of the net to be an option for Granlund.

Granlund decides to pass the puck to the player with the most players around him.

Joel Eriksson-Ek isn’t even in that great of a position to do anything with a pass other than maybe give it right back to Granlund but Artem Anisimov is right on him, takes the puck from him and the Blackhawks head down the ice on a 4-on-2. Granlund gets back to defend on the play but who do they leave open on the weakside? None other than #88 Patrick Kane just waiting to one-time a Nick Schmaltz pass into the net to give his team a 1-0 lead.

Granlund came very close to getting his stick on the pass to Kane but missed it. It’s amazing how quickly one little play can turn a game. That Granlund pass caused the odd-man rush and then it’s split second decisions on who/how to defend the play. Granlund had other options in going to either point or behind the net to Staal. Get the puck to a player that will have time & space to do something with it or is in a shooting position and doesn’t have 3 defenders within reach of him. Make the defense turn to find the puck, which will then open you up to go to the net as they all watch the puck.

The Wild did get some chances but, of course, didn’t capitalize on any of them and then came the 2nd period and they went back to mistakes at the offensive blueline, trying to make plays instead of just getting the puck deep and getting the forecheck going. They were outshot 22 to 6 in the period. They took 3 penalties including a too many men penalty that just shouldn’t happen.

Another bad change gave them a 2-0 deficit when Patrick Kane got behind the defense and went in all alone on Alex Stalock and beat him through the 5-hole.

Chicago D Jordan Oesterle sees Saad changing & both Wild players changing and is already looking for that pass to open up.

There’s a pass available to Saad as he’s changing. He’s wide open and would’ve had more of a breakaway than Kane did. Brodin knew Saad was changing and in the replay of the goal you can see him adjust to the middle but he obviously didn’t adjust enough because the pass still got through and that’s 2 for Patrick Kane and a 2-0 lead in the 2nd period.

Patrick Kane's second of the night 2 - MIN at CHI - 12-17-2017 - NHL com

How wide were Jordan Oesterle’s eyes when he saw Patrick Kane behind the defense and open for the long pass?

Going into the 3rd, you had to believe the Minnesota Wild would bring a push to get back into the game. They did but they are struggling to put the puck in the net and the frustration of those struggles is showing. Just 1:41 into the 3rd period, Chicago F #38 Ryan Hartman put the Blackhawks up 3-0 with a nice play from a bad angle, shooting high once he saw Alex Stalock going for the pokecheck. So, now the Wild are down 3-0.

Matt Dumba scored with 14:04 left in the 3rd period to get the Wild on the board and maybe get them some momentum when he fired a laser from the right point into the upper left corner. It was a blast from Dumba, too. It wasn’t one of those Knucklepucks. Corey Crawford was screened by two of his own players so didn’t pick it up until late. Queue up The Imperial March (the Darth Vader theme)….Dum, dum, dum, Dumba-dum, Dumba-dum…

The Wild did get some momentum from Dumba’s goal but Charlie Coyle and Joel Eriksson-Ek were foiled by Corey Crawford to keep the Blackhawks ahead 3-1.The Wild received a power play with 5:25 left in the 3rd period and Bruce Boudreau decided to pull the goalie so they’d have a 6-on-4 advantage and hopefully get the game within 1 goal so they could push to tie it up with 3+ minutes to go. Unfortunately, Ryan Suter whiffed on a pass and the puck went to Tommy Wingels and since the Blackhawks were killing a penalty he sent it down the ice right away and it slowly, painfully went into the Wild net and the Blackhawks had their 3-goal lead back at 4-1. That would be the final score.

Boudreau Postgame Interview
Wild Coach Bruce Boudreau said in the postgame press conference that the Wild are getting frustrated because they aren’t seeing results from their hard work. Then he made a really good point about frustration:

“Frustration is the most useless emotion you can have. It does nothing but hurt you.”
– Minnesota Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau

He’s right because the frustration and not seeing results makes the team and the individual players think they aren’t good enough or that they have to change what they’re doing to get results. What they actually have to do is stick to their game and trust it. That means trust their teammates, trust their shots and trust the system. Trust that what they are doing works and keep working at it.

It’s exciting to see what a team does when they aren’t having success. How will they respond the next time they’re on the ice, the next time they get a scoring chance, the next time the same situation comes up where they’ve been scored on recently. It’s an 81-game season and every team goes through some ups and downs. The great teams find a way to get through the downs quickly and get back to playing their game.

We’ll see if the Wild can do that tomorrow night when they face the struggling Ottawa Senators in Ottawa at 6pm on Fox Sports North.

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Wild Recaps – vs Edmonton Oilers – December 16th, 2017

The Wild take on the Oilers. Can they keep shutting down Connor McDavid?

Have the Minnesota Wild turned things around this quickly? It was only 3 weeks ago when they lost two games in a row to the St. Louis Blues (6-3) & the Winnipeg Jets (7-2) and fans & writers were putting a fork into them saying the problems were too hard to fix. Then they got on a roll of sorts and won 6 out of their next 7 games including a 4-game winning streak going into the game against Edmonton. Since November 9th, they are 12-4-1. 3 of those 4 losses were blowouts and the overtime loss was to the New Jersey Devils.

Those losses (and some of the wins) showed the Wild they had problems to fix with their defense and in how they play in Overtime. They’ve improved in those areas as shown by not losing a game that’s gone past regulation, 3 in overtime and 2 in shootouts. But, just because a team is winning doesn’t mean they are playing great. They’ve allowed too many comebacks in the 3rd period and still have yet to play a full 60-minute game of good hockey. They played pretty well against Toronto the other night, though.

The Edmonton Oilers activated their #1 goaltender, Cam Talbot, off injured reserve for yesterday’s matinee game so the Wild should’ve been shooting quickly and shooting often, right? Well, they should have but for some reason this team doesn’t seem to want to shoot the puck. There’s a time to shoot and a time to look for a pass or a better angle for a shot but way too many times nowadays, players love to get closer to the net to shoot. It doesn’t make any sense. These are NHL players with NHL shots and the closer you get to the NHL goalie, the harder it is to score. Here’s one example:

Tyler Ennis after an Edmonton turnover at their own blueline.

Tyler Ennis gets the puck at the offensive blueline and he has the time and space to skate into a prime shooting area as show in the photo above. Chris Stewart should have gotten the puck deep but he tried and hit the Edmonton d-man with the puck as he was entering the zone. He’s now on the right half-wall. Daniel Winnik is coming out of the right corner. Ennis has the puck and has speed skating through the slot. He could take a shot and maybe even use the Oiler player as a screen. He decides to keep the puck and skate all the way around to the left and take a shot from a terrible angle at the bottom of the faceoff circle and, of course, it’s right into the goalie’s chest.

Why not take a shot earlier from the slot? The shooting angle is better. He can aim for a corner and if it misses the net, he has the speed to be the first one to get there or he can get behind the net and set up a play. I’m sure after that shift the coach on bench told him to shoot it right away. Get pucks on the net early in the game. This play was 3 minutes into the game.

Edmonton F #93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored the first goal while shorthanded when Matt Dumba gets a little too aggressive and there’s 4 Wild players below the dots. It’s a power play and yes, you’re trying to score, but you can’t be careless.

4 players below the dots all looking for a rebound, not worrying about defense.

The shot was saved and the rebound squirts out to the right boards and Zack Kassian and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins get a 2-on-1 with Ryan Suter as the loan defenseman for the Wild. The usual rule on a 2-on-1 is to take away the pass and let the goalie take the shooter so he doesn’t have to try to get across his crease to make a save. For some reason, Suter doesn’t try to do that and Nugent-Hopkins gets an easy goal to put the Oilers up 1-0.

Angle 1

Angle 2

In Angle 1, Suter is maybe giving up too much of a gap because the pass is already available then for some reason, he moves closer to the shooter basically forcing a pass. Nugent-Hopkins was able to catch the pass and pretty easily shoot it past Alex Stalock. Was Suter counting on Mikael Granlund to get back into the play or did he think Stalock could get across his crease quicker? Did he think Kassian would hold the puck longer?

Matt Dumba would redeem himself rather quickly when a little over 4 minutes later he would score off a one-timer from a Mikael Granlund backhand sauce pass. Maybe it wasn’t the greatest sauce pass because the main reason it turned into a goal was probably because it turned into a KnucklePuck because Dumba didn’t get all of it.

The tie game would only last a few minutes when a deflected puck goes right to Milan Lucic’s stick and he buries it to the right of Alex Stalock. Ryan Suter makes a great play to separate Connor McDavid from the puck with some physical play but Leon Draisaitl sees a loose puck and gets his stick in there before Suter can pass it away and Milan Lucic wastes no time getting the shot off, surprising Stalock.

Matt Dumba and his aggressiveness would be the main culprit again. On a faceoff in the Oilers zone, Eric Staal wins the faceoff but Charlie Coyle was tied up by Jesse Puljujarvi leaving the puck free for Milan Lucic to grab it and start down the ice. Dumba would’ve been fine if he had just started skating back on the play instead of trying to check the 6’3”, 236-pound power forward but he thought he could make a play and Lucic showed him just how hard he is to move off the puck, causing Dumba to fall down and making the play into a 2-on-1 with Charlie Coyle backchecking hard to try to break it up.

Look how far away Dumba is from the puck. Just play good solid defense with 11+ minutes left down 2-1 in the 3rd period.

There were some other things that played into this goal. Ryan Suter, who is usually one of the best at getting the blade of his stick in the way of the puck when defending, either took his eye off of it for a split second or was maybe more worried about Lucic shooting then passing and that allowed Lucic to make a slight adjustment to get the pass over to Puljujarvi. Charlie Coyle got on his horse after losing a battle for position on the faceoff and he actually gets his stick on the pass from Lucic but the puck then goes off of Puljujarvi’s right skate, off the toe of Alex Stalock’s right leg but right back to Puljujarvi and he just taps it into the empty net.

That’s two 2-on-1s where Suter went to the player with the puck instead of taking away the pass. Is he just overconfident that he can break up that play or is there something about the Oilers they saw to do that on 2-on-1s?

Matt Dumba would redeem himself once again with another one-timer Knucklepuck to bring the game within 1. This one also came off a backhand sauce pass although this time it was from Chris Stewart and it knuckled into the upper right corner over a waving Cam Talbot catching glove.

The Minnesota Wild brought a big push to tie the game up and Connor McDavid, who is not known for his defense, made a great defensive play to break up a Nino Niederreiter wraparound with 50 seconds left that very well may have tied the game and forced overtime.

97 preventing goals, too!

Well, the Wild get right back at it tonight with a game in Chicago to start a 4-game road trip. Will this be the night Mikko Koivu breaks out of his slump? He’s been getting chances, hitting posts but has just been snakebit when it comes to scoring. The Wild should get up for this game and they played a whale of a game the last time they were in the United Center so, hey, Let’s Go WILD!!!

THANKS for reading some Clutter. We’d love to see your thoughts on this game, the Wild or anything else hockey-related so….

Get Wild Tonight &…

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